People say his mettle comes from strong faith. A doctor-friend of mine wonders whether his is the stubborn steel of the successfully reformed alcoholic. Whatever fuses his backbone, the fact is, George W. Bush gets it: Freedom is under assault, and it is left to the United States and its few true allies to do what it takes to defend it.
Administration officials sound a similar note. About the president's request for $87 billion to hold and rebuild Iraq, national security advisor Condoleeza Rice recently said, "Yes, the price tag is very high." But, she added perceptively, "Freedom is priceless." And in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, engaged in what The Washington Post described as "an unusual bit of rhetorical escalation" about what is at stake. "You may have to go back to the Civil War to find a time when the values we hold dear have been threatened like they've been threatened today," Gen. Myers said. "We've got to have the will to win. This is a battle of wills."
This is something the president understands. Bush's big-picture perspective is the single most vital asset he has. And it is something no Democratic presidential contender has, as was painfully revealed by the latest Democratic debate. There, George W. Bush -- not, say, Islamic terrorism -- was unanimously identified as the root of all evil. Iraq, it was largely agreed, was a mistake only the United Nations could correct -- although how that could be, given the U.N.'s spectacular record of administering Palestinian refugee camps that turn out generation after generation of murder-minded terrorists, no one explained.
Not that murder-minded terrorists are a problem. As Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean put it, "We need to beat George Bush so we can have peace in the Middle East."
Bush-obsessed, Democrats don't see anything beyond the president. Bush-obsessed, they have no inkling as to what may lie ahead without him: the fearful chaos of a prematurely ended war on terrorism. And that may be what is most frightening of all.